Americans need to sound the alarm over oil profiteering

By: Roger Phelps The Telegraph
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Let's first call it an epidemic, and then make sure we don't ignore both how it started and how it got to be an epidemic, as we have ignored with AIDS. I speak of oil-related profit, and its symptom, gas-price rises. Although investigations exist, no proof is had now around the point of origin of epidemic oil-related profit. Certainly there is no conclusive, smoking-gun proof of any sort of conspiracy. But there's a problem with saying, "Therefore, wait it out." The fact is that as weeks go by, everything happens as if it was a conspiracy. So, the 'tis"-'tisn't' conspiracy issue is moot in terms of what we should do. Each of us should go to emergency mode. We should not avoid engagement. Effects that could have been caused by conscious collusion often in the past have been caused with no deliberated conspiracy -- caused rather by simple, energetic pursuits of interests that are wholly separate but also are wholly compatible. We can't wait for the investigations to produce proof of conspiracy. Don't forget Phillip Morris saying in 1984 the U.S. Surgeon General had no right to put warnings on tobacco because "no conclusive proof" existed of tobacco-caused cancer. Don't forget George W. Bush saying he wouldn't sign the Kyoto Protocol because it might hurt our corporate economy -- you know, the economy around which no conclusive proof exists that it did as much or more as any to cause global warming. Bush since then hasn't safeguarded the economy. But neither has his Texas oil-industry profile been raised in connection with gas prices. But he's president, and his Energy Information Agency -- nice Orwellian sound there -- in its June 12 update ignored the fact of federal investigation into oil traders' alleged systematic manipulation of prices. "Supply and demand" remains the Bush administration's Web site answer to "why high oil prices?" despite the fact of his Commodities Futures Trading Commission's announcing recently it is conducting around 60 separate investigations of oil-traders' suspected price manipulation. Bush's home-state West Texas Intermediate crude oil contract is, perhaps embarrassingly for the president, traded offshore and unregulated since January 2006. That's largely what CFTC is investigating. The probe might seem late in coming. The Atlanta company that managed to offshore the trading in West Texas Intermediate crude is backed by investor and oil-trading bank Goldman Sachs, a large campaign contributor to former Texas Sen. Phil Gramm and was bought by investors at a time when Wendy Gramm, the senator's wife, sat on the CFTC board. Some members of the post-Phil Gramm and post-Jack Abramoff U.S. Congress are making noise. We need to deluge California senators Feinstein and Boxer, and U.S. Rep. John Doolittle, with requests to raise the noise level. It's an emergency. It's an epidemic that's way out of control. A rally July 6 on the steps of the State Capitol will get press, but control here seems to lie with the federal government. Don't accept it that George Bush chooses to have us believe, "There's no magic wand here."